Reading news with ‘maturity’

Posted Nov. 13, 2009, at 7:25 p.m.

I know this letter will come to you as surprise one but I want you to read this with maturity,” the Nigerian scam e-mail message began. Turns out that a stranger ostensibly up to no good had allegedly informed a bank in Nigeria that I had died, but not before authorizing her to claim the 4.5 million U.S. dollars I had stashed in the bank long ago and apparently had forgotten about, as we fabulously rich people are inclined to do.

“Are you truly dead, or alive?” the bank manager wanted to know. If I am dead, there would be no need to reply to his e-mail, he suggested. But if I am alive and don’t act within 24 hours to provide documentation to the bank, well, I should not be the least bit surprised to learn that the money in my abandoned account has been wired to the woman’s California account.

Ah, well. Easy come, easy go.

The bank manager also advised me that his staff had discovered that I had been “dealing with some bad eggs officials who SCAMED some money from you without doing the right thing, Be advice to STOP further communication with them, your funds is now approved for payment, follow the right procedure now.” (If ever a paragraph made the editor in me yearn to haul out his blue pencil and begin whacking away, it would be that one.)

I’m not sure just which “bad eggs officials” I have been dealing with that so concerned the man, although I suppose it could have been most any of my daily contacts. Lord knows, I do run with a pretty shifty crowd here on the northern frontier.

In any event, since $4.5 million is but a pittance to someone of my financial stature and thus hardly worth the bother of ringing up Nigeria to claim, I didn’t. But I did take the bank manager’s point about reading things “with maturity,” which is to say in careful consideration of the stated facts. I like to think this has been my approach to reading the morning newspaper for quite some time.

Take, for example, that recent item about the moose, oozing contempt for mankind, that disdainfully kicked out a headlight of a motorist’s vehicle on a highway downriver before sauntering off into the woods. Or the one about the guy cited by police in another state for drunkenly driving his gasoline engine-powered reclining chair on a public way. Upon reading both stories with the maturity that such mental images demanded, I laughed as heartily as most normal readers surely must have.

The story out of Seoul, South Korea, in last weekend’s newspaper about a lady who allegedly had to take the written portion of a driver’s exam 950 times before passing it got the mature treatment as well in the form of a derisive snort of disbelief. The first mature thought that crossed my mind upon reading that one was that you probably wouldn’t want to meet this woman motoring down the road should she somehow pass the driving part of her exam before she drops dead of old age.

The second carefully considered idea was that the lady ought to ring up the Guinness Book of Records to demand her allotted 15 minutes of fame as the world’s slowest learner, driver’s exam division.

I can’t quite put my finger on just why this news story had about it the whiff of a tale that gets better with each telling. Korean news media reported that the woman took the test 950 times, but police would say only that she took it “hundreds of times.” Color me skeptical, on both counts, which is where reading with maturity can get you.

Reading with maturity can also induce bewilderment, which was the case with early news stories out of Fort Hood, Texas, regarding last week’s wanton killing of 13 soldiers and the wounding of 29 others by an Army psychiatrist. The bewilderment concerned the reluctance of some government officials and talking heads on television to call the tragedy an act of terror, lest they stand accused of political incorrectness.

Regardless of what any official government definition of terrorism might be and considering the circumstances of the massacre, most people would be hard-pressed to conclude that the Fort Hood victims — trained soldiers though they were — had not felt terrorized during their ordeal, one would think.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at olddawg@bangordailynews.net.

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